We all know that aerobic exercise is good for us…
It keeps you flexible, helps control weight gain, and keeps your heart muscle in shape.
But what type of activity is best? And how do you motivate yourself to actually go out and walk, bike, swim, or do other things that are good for you, especially as the weather gets colder?
Good news! An abundance of research is now being done to determine just which type of exercise will give you the biggest returns for your efforts. The results are streaming in, and they all support one form of training that most of us would say “yes” to.
Workout to slow the aging process
Why do we age? In simple terms, our mitochondria slow down.
Mitochondria are our cells’ powerhouse. They are the engines that provide fuel and energy to all of our cells. As they decline in strength and number, you’re left with more unhealthy, aged or diseased cells in your body.
But, a new way of exercising called high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can affect this process.
This type of exercise routine does more than just keep you in good physical shape. Apparently, it goes right down to the cellular level, helping your body age more slowly…
In a March 2017 study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, subjects under age 30 and over age 64 participated in high-intensity interval training, as well as other types of exercise.
When their muscle cells were biopsied, 400 of their genes were working differently, compared to 33 for weight lifters and 19 for moderate exercisers. (In the younger group, 247 genes showed changes). Specifically, the health of the mitochondria had improved.
What exactly is HIIT?
Instead of moving continuously for 20 minutes or more, as in walking, jogging, or cycling, HIIT involves approximately 30 to 60 second bursts of exercise near the peak of a person’s ability, followed by 30 to 60 seconds of recovery. This sequence is repeated for a total of 20 to 45 minutes, three times per week.
Various activities can be adapted to interval training, including cycling, swimming, walking, and jogging, esp. on a machine like a stationary bike or treadmill. But HIIT is possible indoors or out. And you can start at the level that’s right for you.
Related: The 7-minute do-anywhere workout
More health benefits of HIIT
Among the research-backed health benefits of high-intensity interval training are:
- More efficient use of insulin – just one session has lowered glucose levels for people with diabetes
- Increased flexibility of blood vessels – this results in more efficient oxygen use, or peak oxygen uptake, the best indicator of cardiovascular fitness
- Improving Parkinson’s stiffness – one study shows that HIIT done three times per week helped stimulate the growth and function of nerves influenced by dopamine, the neurotransmitter that declines in Parkinson’s patients.
- Prevention of other diseases – cancer, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s Disease, fibromyalgia, and other diseases have been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction (more about mitochondria below).
How to get started
While research indicates that brief, high-intensity workouts are actually good for the heart, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have ongoing health concerns. They will help you find the best way to get started.
That said, if you have 30 to 45 minutes in your day, you can do high-intensity interval training. Many sports fitness websites have good routines for beginners.
You can do straight exercise moves, like pushups, jumping jacks, and squats. Or, if your body needs something a bit gentler, a stationary bike or treadmill can be the way to go. It’s best to choose a form of movement you enjoy and will stick with. My colleague Dr. Adria Schmedthorst list three ways to get started with smart interval training, here.
Always keep water nearby, and drink some before beginning. And make sure you’ve had a good meal a little while earlier. You’ll be burning fat, so you’ll need some nutrients to fuel you.
Last but perhaps most important, listen to your body. If you’ve established a routine with the help of your doctor, but you just feel too tired one day, or are moving slowly, it may be time for a break. And of course, if you feel unwell, or have any disturbing symptoms, stop and have them checked out.
Editor’s note: Exercising is important as you age to prevent brain shrinkage. Just be sure you’re not countering the brain-healthy benefits by taking medicines that sabotage your efforts. 38.6 million Americans take a single drug every day that robs the brain of an essential nutrient required for optimal brain health, and it’s stealing their memories. Are you one of them? Click here to find out!
- The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles — The New York Times
- Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans — Cell Metabolism
- Why Your Workout Should Be High-Intensity — The New York Times
- Effectiveness of Interval Exercise Training in Patients with COPD — Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal
- Interval training-induced alleviation of rigidity and hypertonia in patients with Parkinson’s disease is accompanied by increased basal serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor — Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine
- How 1-Minute Intervals Can Improve Your Health — The New York Times
- Low-volume interval training improves muscle oxidative capacity in sedentary adults — Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
- Where Does HIT Fit? An Examination of the Affective Response to High-Intensity Intervals in Comparison to Continuous Moderate- and Continuous Vigorous-Intensity Exercise in the Exercise Intensity-Affect Continuum — PLOS
- Protecting precious mitochondria — Easy Health Options
- 5 Keys To Doing High-Intensity Intervals The Right Way — Bodybuilding.com